CN Tower, Canada
Photograph by Jim Bradford, The Canadian Press
A bolt of lightning strikes the CN Tower, once the tallest free-standing building in the world, in Toronto, Canada. Tall buildings are usually equipped with lightning rods to give the electricity from a lightning strike, up to one billion volts, a safe path to the ground.
Photograph by Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
Bolts of lightning descend like tentacles from a storm-roiled sky. Benjamin Franklin discovered in 1752 that lightning is actually electricity. In his now-famous experiment, he sent a kite with a metal key tied to the string up into a thunderstorm. Sparks leaping from the key confirmed his hunch about lightning.
Photograph by Scott M. Lieberman, Associated Press
Lightning flashes within a cloud near Tyler, Texas. Cloud-to-cloud lightning is one of the most common types; it travels between positive- and negative-charged areas of clouds.
Photograph by Todd Gipstein, National Geographic
Bolts of lightning flash in the night during a thunderstorm in Groton, Connecticut. The myth that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice is just that—a myth. If enough charge remains after an initial lightning strike, another bolt can follow the same path, causing the flickering effect seen in some lightning strikes.
Photograph by Steve and Donna O'Meara, National Geographic
Volcanic lightning is rare, and lightning between thunderstorms and ash clouds even more so. In this photo, taken in May 2009, lightning flashes between a thunderstorm and the eruption plume from Rabaul volcano on New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea.
New Mexico Lightning
Photograph by Mark Wilson, Roswell Daily Record/AP
Lightning erupts from a purple cloud over Roswell, New Mexico.
Forked Lightning Bolt
Photograph by Thomas Allen, Digital Vision/Getty Images
Mother Nature paints an electric-blue sky with a bold twist of lightning. Lightning and thunder occur simultaneously, but because light travels faster than sound, we see lightning first. Count the seconds between a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder and divide by five to estimate how far away in miles the storm is. Divide by three for kilometers.
Lightning and Giraffe
Photograph by Gerard Fritz, Getty Images
Cloud-to-cloud lightning illuminates the silhouette of a giraffe and trees. Central Africa has the most lightning activity in the world.
Lightning Over Miami
Photograph by Brian Hightower, Your Shot
Lightning branches out between clouds over nighttime Miami, Florida.
Lightning Strikes the Big Apple
Photograph by Gregory Kramer, Getty Images
White lightning strikes between two buildings in New York City. Lightning often strikes a high point in a given area, whether it is a tall building or a person, but not necessarily the tallest thing around, as shown in this photo.
Photograph by Dana Lovallo, My Shot
Cloud-to-cloud lightning lights up the night sky over a small town in Connecticut.
Chimney Rock, Colorado
Photograph by James L. Amos, National Geographic
A horizontal bolt of lightning tries to lasso Chimney Rock, also called Jackson Butte, in Colorado.
Lightning at Night, Walton, Nebraska
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic
Whips of lightning crack the sky near rural Walton, Nebraska. Because a flash of lightning is actually multiple strokes that occur in a fraction of a second, time exposure photographs like this best capture these rapid-fire displays.
Photograph by Raymond Gehman, National Geographic
Lightning crackles between clouds in the distance off the coast of the Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.
Photograph by Associated Press
A bolt of lightning streaks behind the Guangzhou International Finance Center in Guangzhou, China.
Sante Fe Trail
Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic
A branch of orange lightning strikes the ground under red-tinged clouds at night along the Sante Fe trail.
Vinales Valley, Cuba
Photograph by Taylor S. Kennedy, National Geographic
Lightning streaks across the sky over Vinales Valley, Cuba. Lightning can travel up to 93,000 miles (150,000 kilometers) per second and reach temperatures of 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit (30,000 degrees Celsius), more than four times hotter than the surface of the sun.
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